© 2010 Fourtoes Ambrotype Half Plate

The start of it all

Here are my very first wet plate ambrotypes.

Met John and two other wetplate newbies, Trevor and Steph on Saturday for our wet plate workshop.

After a coffee and chat on the history, process and Health & Safety, John showed us how to make an ambrotype (wet plate on glass) from beginning to end.

He then let us loose. Heres a brief summary of all the steps you have to remember.

Set up camera and subject. Measure and cut your glass. Smooth edges. Clean glass. Coat edges of plate with albumen. Pour a coat of collodion. Wait. Test corner. Insert in Silver Nitrate bath. Wait. Remove and dry back of plate. Insert right way round in holder. Carry holder upright to camera. Recheck camera and subject. Expose. Carry folder back to darkroom. Take out plate. Pour developer quickly but accurately onto plate. Wait. Quick wash it with water. No, quicker. Now fix in Potassium Cyanide. Wait. Now wash in water. Let dry. Heat it, varnish it, heat it. Let it dry.

Now I’ve probably forgotten several important steps. Good job John provided us with handy guide books for us to remind ourselves.

At the end of the day we had all shot 4 ambrotypes of various qualities. Pouring collodion, dev and varnish onto a plate is an art form in itself. Let alone all the other things you have to know, recognise and master.

Above are my 4 in chronological order. There’s sooo much to remember and sooo much that can go wrong. Collodion islands, oysters, comets, dev islands, dev scum, over exposure, under exposure, over dev, under dev, fixer bleaching, oh my giddy aunt.

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